James Jimmy Cumberbatch

James Jimmy Cumberbatch scores two tries in his debut against France

Viv Anderson broke through as the first black player to represent England at football in 1978, but rugby league had already beaten this achievement by more than forty years when Jimmy Cumberbatch ran out for England against France in 1937 (Source: The Glory of their Times Edited by Phil Melling, Tony Collins)


Jimmy Cumberbatch - The Times Newspaper 12 Apr 1937
England’s Victory – Cumberbatch, the English three-quarter, getting away with the ball in the Rugby League international match between England and France at Halifax. England won by 23 points to 9

England Rugby League Logo

Match Report England vs. France


Saturday 10th April 1937 Thrum Hall, Halifax.England Rugby League Logo

England were flattered by the margin by which they beat France in the Rugby League International match at Halifax. They won by four goals and five tries (23 points) to three goals and one try (9 points).
France held their own in the matter of handling and speed, and the whole side exploited the Rugby code in a way which the crowd appreciated. By half-time France led by nine points to seven, but throughout the second half they were without Samatan, their wing three-quarter back, who dislocated a shoulder.

In spite of this handicap France held their own for a long time. England, indeed, were often in difficulties, but towards the end the loss of a player proved too much for France, who deteriorated, and England, rallying, scored freely.

On the whole the English team was disappointing. There were occasions when much of their play was ragged, and their crude movements compared unfavourably with those of the Frenchmen, who infused into their play much enthusiasm and skill.

The outstanding player of the match was Rousie, the French captain and stand-off half-back. He was fast and clever, and never neglected an opportunity to race off on his own or give his three-quarter backs chances with cleverly placed passes. In addition Rousie scored six of France’s nine points by kicking three goals – one wonderful dropped goal. Hodgson, the England captain, also played well. Belshaw was the best of the English backs. His steadiness and courage at full-back often saved England.

The Teams were:-

ENGLAND – B. Belshaw (Liverpool Stanley), back; B. Cunniffe (Castleford), F. Harris (Leeds), T. Winnard (Bradford Northern), and J. Cumberbatch (Broughton Rangers), three-quarter backs; Pepperell (Huddersfield) and T. McCue (Widnes), half-backs; H. Woods (Liverpoool Stanley), T. Armitt (Swinton), H. Higgins (Widnes), M. Hodgson (Warrington) (captain), J. Arkwright (Warrington), and H. Beverley (Hunslet), forwards.

FRANCE – M. Guiral, back; A. Cussac, E. Bosc/Bosch, Nogueres (F.) and B. Samatan (R.), three-quarter backs; M. Roussie (captain) and P. Brinsolles, half-backs; L. Griffard, Porra, Bruzy, C. Petit (C.), Claudel, and M. Bruneteau, forwards.

REFEREE – F. Peel (Bradford)

  England 23 France 9
Tries – 3pts J. Cumberbatch (2), T. Winnard (2), B. Cunniffe M. Brunetaud
Goals – 2pts M. Hodgson (3), T. Winnard (1) M. Roussie (2)
Drop goals   M. Roussie

International Career

Jimmy Cumberbatch won three England caps scoring in each of his matches a total of four tries for twelve points.

England vs. Wales

Saturday 29th January 1938 England 6 vs. Wales 7 at Odsal, Bradford
A crowd of 8,637 watched Wales beat by England by 7 points to 6. England were unable to overcome Wales’ 7 point half-time lead but finished strongly.

  England 6 (3 at half-time) Wales 9 (7 at half-time)
Tries – 3pts J. Cumberbatch, B. Hudson C. Evans
Goals – 2pts   J Sullivan (2)


Teams England Wales
Fullback Walkington J. Sullivan (c)
Wing B. Hudson B. Johnson
Centre S. Brogden C. Evans
Centre J. Croston G. J. Risman
Wing J. Cumberbatch A. Edwards
Five-Eighth Shannon O. Morris
Halfback T. McCue D. Jenkins Jnr
Front Row H. Beverley D. Prosser
Hooker Booth C. Murphy
Front Row Ayres L. Rees
Second Row Irving G. Morgan
Second Row T. Armitt N. Fender
Lock H. Higgins A. Givvons


France vs. England

Sunday 20th march 1938 France 15 vs. England 17 at Stade de Paris, France
A crowd of 15,000 watched England beat France by 17 points to 15.

  France 15 (5 at half-time) England 17 (7 at half-time)
Tries – 3pts M. Brunetaud, Salat, H. Sanz T. Armitt, J. Cumberbatch, T. McCue
Goals – 2pts M. Guiral (3) B. Belshaw (3)
Drop goals   J. Arkwright


Teams France England
Fullback M. Guiral B. Belshaw
Wing H. Sanz J. Cumberbatch
Centre C. Estoueight J. Croston
Centre M. Roussie Morrell
Wing Salat Grainge
Five-Eighth P. Brinsolles Herbert
Halfback J. Dauger T. McCue
Front Row A. Rousse Ellarignton
Hooker H. Durand J. Arkwright
Front Row L. Griffard Ayres
Second Row Gau H. Higgins
Second Row M. Nourrit T. Armitt
Lock M. Brunetaud Thacker

Club Career

Broughton 1937 F - Broughton Rangers based in Salford, Manchester.
Newcastle 1938 W

This live piece of mercury, who has come before the selectors as a Tour probable, first came to Manchester to play for Swinton, who passed him over. However, he signed for Broughton and has since proved their finest acquisition. His clever play on the Broughton left wing has also proved him to be one of the League’s foremost attackers. Born in Liverpool, he first played the Association game for his school until he became attached to barrow St. Matthew’s Club. Has earned his County Cap, and has also played for the League against France. Jimmy’s brother [Val Cumberbatch] is a member of the Barrow Club, and two other brothers keep up the family tradition of excelling at sport. Jimmy is a good sport, a good player, and one of the the League’s most popular players.


James Haywood Cumberbatch was born 9 February 1909 in Liverpool, England. He was the son of Theodore Theophilus Cumberbatch, a ship’s steward, originally from Barbados and Mary Ellen née Kewin originally from Ramsey in the Isle of Man. He married Eva née Ball in 1936 and they had a son James. James’ brother Val Cumberbatch played rugby league for Barrow and he played one game for England.


  • Match Report - The TimesMonday, 12 Apr, 1937; pg. 6; Issue 47656; col C : Rugby League Football England Beat France (Sport)
  • England vs France picture in The Times Monday, 12 Apr, 1937; pg. 18; Issue 47656; col A
  • http://www.rugbyleagueproject.org
  • Cigarette Card Sporting Events and Stars Series of 97 No. 74 J. Cumberbatch